When I was a junior in college I interned in the promotions department at the radio station Mix 98.5 in Boston. One of the jobs of the interns, if they chose to accept it, (and who wouldn't for $50 per event) was to dress up as the station's mascot, The Mix Moose. Well, my first day at my internship, I had the opportunity to go to a local CVS with the station dressed as The Mix Moose. I accepted that challenge and got into costume. Well, after the event, I was walking down the first aid aisle of CVS, and maybe it was because I couldn't see or because the shoes of the moose were too big or I wasn't used to walking around in such a big costume, I'm not sure, but as I'm walking down the aisle, I trip over my feet and fall into the shelving units of medicine, knocking everything down. I was so embarrassed that I got up as quickly as possible and ran to the back storage area and got out of the costume.
Needless to say, when Heidi Vanderlee of Shark Party Media reached out to me about doing an interview with Shonali Bhowmik about Bed Bugs and Hot Pockets, which is set in a CVS, I had no choice, but to say yes, as the setting of the show alone brought me right back to that laughable moment in my life. It was great getting to talk with Shonali about Bed Bugs and Hot Pockets as well all the other projects she has going on!
Bed Bugs and Hot Pockets, a show about working at CVS, mass surveillance, technology, social media and our romanticism of it all, will play in the South Asian International Performing Arts Festival on August 8 & 9 at Access Theater Black Box (380 Broadway). Click here for tickets!
1. After winning the 2015 Downtown Urban Theater Audience Award, your show, Bed Bugs and Hot Pockets is now playing in the South Asian International Performing Arts Festival on August 8 & 9. What excites you about having Bed Bugs and Hot Pockets in the South Asian International Performing Arts Festival? BBHP had one performance in the 2015 DUTF Festival which was an overwhelming success but after it was said and done, we (cast and crew) knew we had to perform again, when and where was the question. To get the opportunity to perform the play again only two months after the first performance within a new festival dedicated to showcasing the work of South Asian artists is exactly the way I had hoped it would work out. I don't get to see enough Desi artists perform and I don't get to perform BBHP enough. South Asian International Performing Arts Festival solves both of those issues.
2. What initially made you want to write this show? The show is based on a visceral reaction I had to being in a CVS drugstore near my apartment last year. My heart started pounding when I realized that there were no more people actually working in the drugstore. There were only self express checkout stations. The inevitability of it all, in terms of corporate interests eventually replacing all people with computers made me so sad.
3. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing Bed Bugs and Hot Pockets? I felt the need to formulate a story albeit a comedy which is a plea that we should all be especially aware of what our dependence on technology is doing to us. We aren't talking to each other and pretty soon we won't be working with each other. My hope is that we will find it in ourselves to stop this fast track to nowhere or at least slow it down.
4. If you could give people one reason as to why they should come see Bed Bugs and Hot Pockets, what would that reason be? To catch a performance by a brilliant all star comedic ensemble (especially rising stars Katina Corrao and Christian Felix) before they are too big to be seen in a small room again.
5. In addition to Bed Bugs and Hot Pockets, you have your web series Shayla Hates Celebrities, your latest short film, Sardines Out of A Can, which won best romantic comedy short at the Bare Bones International Film Fest 2014, you co-host your own podcast series called We Don’t Even Know, and you have your own independent record label called Little Lamb Recordings. First off all, when do you find the time to sleep? Secondly, what do you enjoy most about working in all these different mediums? How does each medium cater to all the components that make you a performer? It's true I do way too much stuff and I don't get enough sleep. Often I say to myself "What the hell are you doing? No one can be good at all those things." But when I turn the "hater" voice off, I realize I am just being me. If my work turns out mediocre so be it and I look towards getting better. I am honestly of the mind that if I never try, then I would be much worse off.
I am at my core a musician. I play for myself as much as I play for an audience. Music has been my first form of therapy. But now I have some additional modes of therapy. Each medium of art I work within is an extension of that feeling in that they each provide some sort of catharsis for me. Music, comedy, film, theater, are all different modes of communication used to bring a community together, to relate, to relax and to force us to think. In the most simplistic terms, I like being in a community and I ain't ashamed of that.
6. Who or what inspired you to become a performer/writer? I have been singing and performing for my parents before I could read, and I started to read at a young age. Literally I went to Disney World in FL as a little kid and I couldn't stop singing "It's a Small World After All" for 8 hours straight in the car on our drive home to TN. I guess you could say Walt Disney was my inspiration.
7. What's the best advice you've ever received? Been told this by a number of creative friends: "You can never be original only authentic." Remembering this has prevented me from throwing away some of my best work.
8. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer/writer? I have way too much to share as you can see in this interview. I also love to learn.
9. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? Laser vision - besides it looking so cool to have lasers shooting out of your eye sockets, wouldn't it be amazing to look up into the sky with a loved one and explain to them exactly what is happening on Pluto?
10. If you could create your own signature drink, what would you call it, and what ingredients would you put in it? Shonuff Shonali (on the rocks) - mainly because this is sure to be good.
1) sliced Ginger - effervescent, reduces nausea and inflammation
2) whiskey - drinker's choice as to which whiskey, preferably one with the essence of chocolate, cinnamon and honey.
3) sliced jalapeño - small thing with an explosive fiery taste - also used in lots of Indian cooking
May be diluted with water or ginger ale for lightweights.
Shonali Bhowmik is a musician, actress, comedienne, filmmaker and writer. She is currently working on her web series Shayla Hates Celebrities, which features Wyatt Cenac, Eliot Glazer, Har Mar Superstar, and more. Her latest short film, Sardines Out of A Can, recently screened in 6 cities across the globe including Madrid, Spain, and won best romantic comedy short at the Bare Bones International Film Fest 2014. She currently co-hosts her own podcast series called We Don’t Even Know, and has her own independent record label called Little Lamb Recordings. She is a member of the popular comedy collective Variety Shac, and has worked with the likes of Fred Armisen, Amy Poehler and Ed Helm. She has also created television pilots for the Adult Swim and IFC networks. In addition, Shonali was the host of the Shac’s popular Upright Citizen’s Brigade live show. After releasing five albums with her rock n’ roll outfits, Tigers & Monkeys and Ultrababyfat, Shonali recently released her first solo full length release 100 Oaks Revival. She is one of the leaders of Ultrababyfat, who were featured David Cross’ tour DVD Let America Laugh. Shonali was composer for original music for the MTV television series How’s Your News (Matt Stone and Trey Parker, Exec. Prod).